Gun Violence Survivors in America
Last Updated: 2.27.2023
- Background Checks on All Gun Sales
- Child & Teen Gun Safety
- City Gun Violence
- Domestic Violence
- Extreme Risk Laws
- Gun Suicide
- Gun Violence by Police
- Impact of Gun Violence on Black Americans
- Keeping Guns Out of the Wrong Hands
- Lack of Gun Industry Accountability
- Mass Shootings
- Repeal Gun Industry Immunity
The United States is a nation of gun violence survivors. More people die from gun violence in the United States by early February than during an entire calendar year in other high-income countries.1Everytown analysis of the most recent year of gun deaths by country (2015 to 2019), GunPolicy.org (accessed January 7, 2022). In addition, millions more are shot and wounded, threatened with a gun, or witness an act of gun violence in their lifetime.
The impact of gun violence extends beyond those who are wounded or killed. The families, communities, and anyone with a personal experience of gun violence in their lifetime are also survivors of gun violence. As this report shows, 59 percent of adults report that they or someone they know or care about have experienced gun violence in their lifetime.
Survivors’ experiences in the wide-ranging nature of America’s gun violence crisis can take many forms, including gun homicides and assaults, gun suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, domestic violence involving a gun, and shootings by police, among other incidents. Identifying as a survivor encompasses different experiences: intimidation or receiving threats with a gun, being wounded by a gun, witnessing an act of gun violence, or having someone you know or care about wounded by or killed with a gun.
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To understand the scope of how gun violence impacts Americans, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund worked with SurveyUSA to survey a nationally representative sample of 1,300 American adults in October 2022 to understand Americans’ experiences with gun violence. This survey explores the breadth of gun violence in America, how it impacts survivors, and whether their needs are being met through three components:
- Experiences with gun violence
Respondents answered questions about their personal experiences with gun violence and whether they know or care about someone impacted by it. The survey questions explored personal experiences of threats, intimidation, injury, suicide, or if someone they care about was killed with a gun. Respondents also reported emotional reactions when hearing about shooting incidents.
- Impact of trauma from gun violence
Survivors of gun violence responded to questions about the traumatic impact of gun violence. Questions in this section explored the impact of trauma from gun violence, whether survivors needed or utilized support or services related to mental health counseling, financial assistance, legal assistance, and health care within the first six months or after a year of experiences with gun violence.
- Perspectives on gun violence
This survey explores how safe Americans feel if guns are present in their neighborhoods and home. This section also asked respondents how big a problem 10 types of gun incidents are, such as mass shootings, everyday crimes, and police shootings.
Stories from the Everytown Survivor Network, a nationwide community of thousands who have personally experienced gun violence, are also collected and featured in their own words. Together, the findings and stories show the prevalence of the gun violence epidemic—and the urgent need to do more to prevent gun violence and provide resources and support for survivors across America.
Key Survey Findings
- 59 percent of adults or someone they know or care about have experienced gun violence in their lifetime.
- 71 percent of Black adults, 60 percent of Latinx adults, and 58 percent of white adults or someone they know or care about have experienced gun violence in their lifetimes.
- 1 in 5 adults know or care about someone who was killed with a gun.
- 1 in 3 Black and Latinx people know or care about someone who was killed with a gun.
- 1 in 4 adults know or care about someone who attempted or died by suicide with a gun.
- 41 percent of those who have had personal experiences with gun violence say it has caused them trauma.
- 57 percent of Black survivors, 38 percent of white survivors, and 34 percent of Latinx survivors experienced trauma from the incident.
- 77 percent of adults say they believe children today are more at risk of becoming a victim of gun violence than they themselves were as children.
Experiences with Gun Violence
59 percent of adults or someone they know or care about have experienced gun violence in their lifetime.
The 59 percent of adults who had personal experiences with gun violence were highest among the following groups:
- 75 percent of parents
- 74 percent of concealed carry permit holders
- 67 percent of gun owners
1 in 4 adults know or care about someone who attempted or died by suicide with a gun.
Firearm suicide is a public health crisis in the United States, claiming the lives of nearly 25,000 Americans every year.1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using four years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2021 Nearly six out of every 10 gun deaths are suicides, resulting in an average of 65 deaths per day.2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using four years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2021. The US firearm suicide rate is nearly 12 times that of other high-income countries.3Everytown analysis of the most recent year of gun suicides by country (2015 to 2019), GunPolicy.org (accessed January 7, 2022).
I became a gun violence survivor on August 21, 2001, when my youngest brother, Pip, took the hunting gun that our grandfather had given him and shot and killed himself. There will always be a “before” and “after” for me. Before my brother died, I saw gun violence and suicide as something that happened to someone else. I was sure that I knew what was going on with my family members and that if they needed help, they would ask for it. I am now an advocate for secure firearm storage and eliminating the stigmas around suicide. If someone tells me they are a gun owner, I ask them how they secure their gun. So many will seem surprised, or say, “Well, no one in my house is struggling,” or “My family knows not to touch it.” I’ll share why securing firearms is so important—so that a bad day doesn’t turn into a deadly day—in the hopes that their family will not have to experience the grief and trauma that I have.
1 in 5 adults know or care about someone who was killed with a gun.
Every day, 120 Americans are killed with guns.4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using four years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2021. In 2021, the rate of gun deaths reached the highest level in more than two decades.5Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. Communities across America feel this upward trend.
1 in 5 adults know or care about someone who was shot and wounded.
Nonfatal gun injuries are an often overlooked part of today’s gun violence crisis. Every day, more than 200 people sustain a nonfatal gun injury in the United States, outnumbering gun deaths.6Everytown For Gun Safety Support Fund, “A More Complete Picture: The Contours of Gun Injury in the United States,” December 2020, https://every.tw/33Hto3F. Many of the thousands of people who survive a gunshot wound experience a lifelong process of healing.
Impact of Gun Violence on Black and Latinx Communities
71 percent of Black adults
and 60 percent of Latinx adults
have experienced or know or care about someone who has experienced gun violence in their lifetimes.
1 in 3 Black and Latinx people know or care about someone who was killed with a gun.
Black and Latinx communities are disproportionately impacted by gun violence. Each day on average, 34 Black people are killed with guns,7Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using four years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2021. and more than 110 experience nonfatal injuries.8Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, “A More Complete Picture: The Contours of Gun Injury in the United States,” December 2020. Each year, more than 4,700 Latinx people die from gun violence in the United States—an average of 13 deaths every day, and 13,300 are shot and wounded.9Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using four years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2021. Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, “A More Complete Picture: The Contours of Gun Injury in the United States,” December 2020. The majority of gun homicides in cities affect Black and Latino men living in historically underfunded communities.
31 percent of Black individuals and 32 percent of Latinx people know or care about someone who was shot and wounded.
Black people have the highest rate of nonfatal injuries—over 10 times higher than white people.10Everytown For Gun Safety Support Fund, “A More Complete Picture: The Contours of Gun Injury in the United States,” December 2020. The rate of nonfatal gun injuries among Latinx people is double that of white people.11Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, “A More Complete Picture: The Contours of Gun Injury in the United States,” December 2020, https://every.tw/33Hto3F. The underinvestment in services in Black and Latinx communities such as quality schools, decent housing, reliable transport, and accessible health care has created areas of concentrated disadvantages where the public health crisis of gun violence profoundly impacts these neighborhoods.
Sometimes the pain from the loss is unbearable, but I keep it moving. You see, I lost my child—my only child. There are so many places we used to go to together. Simple activities like going clothes shopping, playing games, going bowling. Birthday celebrations. My house was full of his friends, filled with joy and laughter. All of these things and more are profoundly different today. I look back and it’s like a slideshow of his life, but these are the moments and memories that survive. Nothing will ever be the same, and it is hard to find simple joy in so many daily activities. I became a Fellow with the Everytown Survivor Network and a volunteer with Moms Demand Action, which has allowed me to raise Craig’s voice. Everytown has given me a platform so that others will get to know me and, through my advocacy, get to know Craig. I fight each and every day so that another parent does not have to experience the devastation that comes from losing a child. I fight, but in the words of Robert Frost, “I have miles to go before I sleep.”
—Valerie Burgest, whose son, Craig Williams, was shot and killed in 2013. His murder remains unsolved.
Impact of Trauma from Gun Violence
Trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.12Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4884. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.
41 percent of those who have had personal experiences with gun violence say it has caused them trauma.
The trauma of gun violence does not end when the gun violence stops. Experiencing gun violence has lasting impacts on survivors, their families, and their communities. More than half of those who experienced trauma rated the impact of trauma as a 4 out of 5 or 5 out of 5, meaning that trauma frequently impacts their well-being and daily functioning.
57 percent of Black survivors, 38 percent of white survivors, and 34 percent of Latinx survivors experienced trauma from the incident.
The toll of gun violence falls heavily on communities that experience structural violence, such as lack of access to social services, support services, education, and housing, as well as racial discrimination. Culture may also explain the variability in individuals’ trauma-related reactions and how they engage with services.13L. R. Snowden and A. M. Yamada, “Cultural Differences in Access to Care,” Annual Review of Clinical Psychology no. 1 (2005): 143–166, doi: 10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.143846 The manifestations of trauma can reverberate through their families and communities and across generations.
44 percent of adults did not have access to support services to help them cope with the impact of trauma in the first six months after the incident, and 45 percent did not have support or services to help them cope with the long-term impact of trauma.
Trauma can affect survivors’ physical and mental health, impacting their work, financial situation, relationships, and family life. The journey of healing after trauma is unique to each person. Survivors’ ability to cope and recover from trauma can depend on access to services such as mental health counseling, medical services, legal services, a home health care worker or caregiver, and assistance for medical and funeral-related expenses after gun violence.
Access to these services were equally important for all survivors. However, despite reporting high levels of trauma, Black and Latinx communities reported less access to this support. In the first six months after an incident, 50 percent of Black survivors and 61 percent of Latinx survivors did not have access to these types of assistance, and access to services to cope with the long-term impact of trauma remained at those same levels for Black and Latinx people.
The path of a survivor has been painful, challenging, and full of hurt. But I have learned a lot, like you can cry in your sleep. I found that not only was my immediate family shattered by this violence, but the lives of my extended family and of Tim’s friends. The last young friend to see him alive that night shot and killed himself a year and half later. I know the overwhelming heartbreak that rips your life apart. I know the crazy cycles of grief that seem to pause one day but hit with double force the next. I know how to cry and drive. I know the impact on my surviving son, who has spent many years in depression over losing his brother. I had to learn how to live again without half my heart. It has taken years to really enjoy the sun again, to see there is light and joy in this world.
—Karen Lynch, whose nineteen-year-old son Tim was shot and killed.
Perspectives on Gun Violence
77 percent of adults say they believe children today are more at risk of becoming a victim of gun violence than the adults themselves were as children.
Firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teens in America.14Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. Data from 2021. Children and teenagers ages 1 to 19, number of deaths by known intent (homicide, suicide, unintentional deaths). Ages 0 to 1 calculated separately by the CDC because leading causes of death for newborns and infants are specific to the age group. Nearly 4,000 children and teens are shot and killed every year, and another 15,000 are shot and wounded.15Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using four years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2021. Ages 0 to 19; Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, “A More Complete Picture.” For children under the age of 13, gun homicides most frequently occur in the home and are often connected with family or domestic violence.16Katherine A. Fowler et al., “Childhood Firearm Injuries in the United States,” Pediatrics 140, no. 1 (2017), https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-348
76 percent of adults believe that mass shootings in schools are a major problem.
The prevalence of school shootings has created a constant fear for parents, students, and educators. The worst period for this violence was in the 2021–2022 school year, which saw nearly four times the average number of gunfire incidents since 2013.17Everytown for Gun Safety, “How to Stop Shootings and Gun Violence in Schools,” August 19, 2022,
https://everytownresearch.org/report/how-to-stop-shootings-and-gun-violence-in-schools/. While mass shootings in schools account for less than 1 percent of overall school gun violence incidents18Between 2013 and 2021, four incidents out of 573 total resulted in more than four people being shot and killed in an incident of gunfire on school grounds. Because the period for this analysis ends in 2021, the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, is not counted here. However, these incidents account for a disproportionate share of the overall deaths and of people wounded from school gun violence., they instill a deep sense of fear among Americans.
44 percent of adults believe that police shootings are a major problem.
68 percent of Black adults
and 52 percent of Latinx adults believe that police shootings are a major problem.
Every year, police in America shoot and kill more than 1,000 people,19Everytown analysis of 2017 to 2021 Mapping Police Violence data (accessed January 3, 2022). and Black and Latinx communities are the victims at a disproportionate rate. Black individuals are nearly three times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white Americans.20Everytown analysis of 2013 to 2019 Mapping Police Violence (accessed June 4, 2020) and population data from the US Census. This may underestimate the true rate as race was unknown for approximately 10% of the reported deaths. National Violent Death Reporting System 2009-2012 (17 states participating) and also shows Black Americans killed by police at a rate 2.8 times higher than white Americans, see DeGue et al., 2016. CDC’s data on 2010-2014 deaths categorized as legal intervention shows a rate of police killing of Black males aged 10+ 2.8 times higher than white males 10+ years old, see Buehler, 2017. In an average year, police shoot and kill over 200 Latinx people, and at a rate higher than white people.21Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund analysis of Mapping Police Violence 2017–2021 (accessed January 3, 2022); US Census Bureau, American Community Survey, B03002: Hispanic or Latino Origin by Race, 2019 ACS 1-Year Estimates, Detailed Tables, https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?hidePreview=true&tid=ACSDT1Y2019.B03002 (accessed January 3, 2022). On average, police shot and killed 204 Latinx Americans per year; this is a rate of 3.4 fatal police shootings per million Latinx Americans. During the same time, police shot and killed an average of 470 non-Latinx white Americans each year; this is a rate of 2.0 per million non-Latinx whites. This may underestimate the true rate, as race was unknown for approximately 10 percent of the reported deaths. Curbing this gun violence requires interrogation of America’s history of racism, reimagining the role of police, and implementing policies to reduce police gun violence.
I had just started my shift volunteering at a local community arts festival with Moms Demand Action. We were asking visitors to participate in an art installation and share their ideas of what a world without gun violence would look like. Suddenly, gunfire erupted just feet from our table. I threw myself to the floor, hiding under the table. I couldn’t see a way out of the building from where I was positioned and, in those moments, not knowing who was shooting or why, I truly thought I was going to die. It took a long time for me to identify myself as a survivor of gun violence. After all, I told myself, I didn’t lose a loved one to gun violence. I didn’t get shot. I’m okay. But living through an act of gun violence has changed the way I walk through this world. Those moments of being crouched on the floor enter my mind at some point every single day, and they probably will for the rest of my life. I hug my kids a little tighter. I find myself a little more alert in crowded places. I survey the people around me differently. I have a new appreciation for security checkpoints. I have a new sensitivity for the trauma that many people have to live through daily. I’m continuing my work with Moms Demand Action with a new perspective. Gun violence affects everyone, and now is the time for us to take control of this epidemic. No one should have to identify as a gun violence survivor.
—Kate, Moms Demand Action Volunteer
Conclusion: A Path Forward
The United States will remain a nation of survivors unless we work together to prevent gun violence. Advocacy, research, and implementation of laws to prevent gun violence is critical to support survivors and community members and to protect people in crisis. To break the pattern of gun violence, as a nation, we can:
- Require background checks on gun sales to keep guns out of the hands of people with dangerous histories.
- Implement state laws that empower family members and law enforcement to ask a court to temporarily block someone in crisis from accessing guns.
- Disarm domestic abusers by prohibiting them from buying guns and requiring them to relinquish guns they already have.
- Hold the gun industry accountable to develop safer gun technology and adopt more responsible sales and marketing practices, and reject legal immunity for the gun industry.
- Fund comprehensive research on the nexus of guns and survivors’ experiences.
- Support survivors in navigating the aftermath of gun violence incidents by implementing policies and programs to strengthen economic support to families, mental health services and resources, and access to medical and legal services.
- Combat daily gun violence through sustainable government funding for gun violence intervention programs to reduce gun violence.
Gun violence can create lifelong impacts on the lives of people who witness it, are threatened by it, and experience it. Survivors live with the trauma from gun violence every day, echoing through whole communities. Their resilience and advocacy in the gun violence prevention movement have paved the way for us to do the same. We must continue to elevate their stories, offer support in movement building, and center their needs in our nation’s gun violence prevention work.
Everytown Research & Policy is a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to understanding and reducing gun violence. Everytown Research & Policy works to do so by conducting methodologically rigorous research, supporting evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge to the American public.